by Alan Sparling and Aidan Herron – January 2022
Bill Sparling was a Skerries road racer. If you’re a motorcycle racing enthusiast, you will already know that. Anyone who logged on to the first Skerries Historical Society presentation of the year knows it and they also know that road racers are a breed apart. Alan Sparling and Aidan Herron’s talk, ‘Spotlight on the Skerries Motor-Cycle Races of Earlier Days’, paid tribute to Alan’s father, Bill, who won the Leinster 200 twice and to all the brave riders, organising clubs and the huge numbers of volunteers who have made motor-cycle racing possible in Skerries over the last 75 years.
There’s so much in the world of motorcycle racing that it’s hard to know where to begin. Maybe with the bikes themselves? Back in the forties, most racers used the same machine they used every day for work or for day-to-day transport. Few could afford to have a bike just for racing but come race day they would make a few modifications. These didn’t include super-efficient shock absorbers but Bill solved that problem with a piece of sponge stuck to his fuel tank so he had somewhere to rest his chin when he was crouching down for maximum streamlining.
If you were scratching your heads and wrestling with mental arithmetic, let me tell you that the first Skerries 100 was in 1946. Many of you will recall that the race came through the centre of the town with spectators thronging the pavements. The words ‘Health and Safety’ meant having your bike checked before the start – to make sure it was roadworthy and had functional brakes – and wearing a pudding basin shaped, cork lined helmet which looks frighteningly fragile when seen next to the helmets used today.
Then, as now, organisers had to think not only of the course, but also how to look after the hundreds of visitors, both riders and supporters, who flocked to the town during race week. Luckily Skerries Sailing Club had been holding annual regattas for over a decade and so were old hands at the game. There was no snobbery between wet-bobs and dry-bobs and the Sailing Club made the visitors from Dublin & District Motor Cycle Club honorary members during race week. I think that meant you had a safe place to go and drown your sorrows if things didn’t go your way. But equally it would have been the perfect spot to toast a victory.
How did the Dublin & District Motor Cycle Club thank Skerries Sailing Club for their hospitality? In 1947 they presented the Sailing Club with a perpetual cup which showed the close bond between the clubs with an engraving of a motorcycle on one side of the cup and a yacht on the other. So far so good but now we come to a mystery which the people of Skerries might just be able to solve. The cup has gone AWOL! Does anyone know its current whereabouts? Or have you a story to tell about it? Has anyone got a photo of it which might help jog memories? For help with finding the cup or any other Skerries 100 related stories, please contact Skerries Historical Society through the contact page. www.oldskerries.ie/contact-us/